Often quite humorous film which purports to speak about cultural mores and their decline; advises us to be wary of pornography which may appear at the local newstand, malt shop or drugstore. In reaction to perception of substantial growth in the distribution of pornographic material. Homosexuality is considered pornographic per se.
Shows frank images often with censoring black bars across them [the bars often obscure very little, simply adding to the air of licentious ness]. "For the sake of decency in this film we have partially covered the pictures and disguised the identity of the models." Excellent footage of magazine covers. Striking art cards like the octopus shown as the symbol of pornography and its mass distribution.
Four kinds of magazines shown: girlie, nudist, physique; men's adventure. And cheap paperback exploitation novels.
Rare footage of gay men's magazine covers and interiors including "ONE" subtitled"The Homosexual Viewpoint" May, 1959.
"A flood tide of filth is engulfing our country in the form of newstand obscenity, it is threatening to pervert an entire generation of our American children."
Children are the target market:
"We know that once a person is perverted, it is practically impossible for that person to revert to normal attitudes in regard to sex." "No matter who buys this material 75 to 90% of
it ends up in the hands of our children."
Modern technology lends itself to the promulgation of decadence:
"Never in the history of the world have the merchants of obscenity, the teachers of unnatural sex acts had available to them the modern facilities for disseminating this filth. High-speed presses, rapid transportation, mass distribution all have combined to put this violent obscenity within the reach of every man, woman and child in the country."
"Through this material, today's youth can be stimulated to sexual activity for which he has no legitimate outlet. He is even enticed to enter the world of homosexuals, lesbians, sadists, masochists and other sex deviants."
"They [pornographic magazines] constantly portray abnormal sexual behavior as normal; they glorify unnatural sex acts; they tell youngsters that it's smart, it's thrilling; it provides kicks to be a homosexual, a sadist and every other kind of deviant."
Community leaders and medical establishment agree about link of pornography to moral decay of country. This weakening also leads to vulnerablity to Communism.
"The military chaplains association of the United States, practically every major fraternal, civic and religious organization, the juvenile court judges, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, innumerable psychiatrists, sociologists, and psychologists attribute the moral decay among our people in very large part to the obscene and pornographic literature so prevalent in our society. This moral decay weakens our resistance to the onslaught of the Communist masters of deceit."
Discussion of nudist magazines: "Very few blind people join the nudist colonies." "A young boy in Philadelphia raped and killed a five-year old girl." He testified "that he had been stimulated to this heinous crime by reading a nudist magazine."
Prolonged exposure to physique magazines puts even "normal" males at risk of becoming perverts (homosexuals). Today's conquest is tommorow's competition: supposed homosexual slogan.
Pornography and "fun" lead to illegitimate children and hefty financial burden on taxpayers.
"Life is presented as fun. This warped idea of fun has contributed to the fact that one out of every twenty children born in the United States last year was illegitimate. The care of these children cost taxpayers one billion dollars."
Rise of VD, crime, violence.
"Sex-mad magazines are helping to create criminals faster than we can build jails to house them."
Also shown is a plan for community organizing campaign.
Contacting merchants; writing letters; checking your home etc. "The law is our weapon." "Report objectionable materials to the police."
Last line of film "Oh God, deliver us, America, from evil." Art card comes up which says the same.
Sponsored by Charles H. Keating, Jr. (yes, the banker implicated in the savings-and-loan scandals) as part of his long-lasting crusade against pornography, Perversion for Profit links sexually explicit media with homosexuality, lesbianism, violent crime, the Communist conspiracy and Satan.
Perversion for Profit was produced by Citizens for Decent Literature, Inc. (CDL), an nonprofit organization incorporated in the late fifties by Keating and two other Cincinnatians. As the "Sex and Censorship Chronology" on this disc relates, CDL's anti-obscenity activities began in the Cincinnati area. As the organization evolved, it began to assist police, prosecutors and citizens elsewhere to enforce existing obscenity laws and to promulgate new legislation against sexually oriented speech and media. This film was made to support this effort throughout the country, and was available to interested groups at no charge.
In its early years CDL was closely tied to organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic anti-Communist movement. Later, as the religious and political right gained influence during the Reagan administration, CDL shared staff and coordinated activities with powerful groups like Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Donald Wildmon's American Family Association. Despite its prominence, though, CDL's development was always linked to the varying fortunes of Charles H. Keating, Jr.
P for P's narrator, conservative Los Angeles television newscaster George Putnam, wearing a silvery silk tie and a dark pinstriped suit, intones: "I'd like to begin with a fact. A simple, yet shocking fact. It is this. A floodtide of filth is engulfing our country in the form of newsstand obscenity. It is threatening to pervert an entire generation of our American children. We know that once a person is perverted, it is practically impossible for that person to adjust to normal attitudes in regard to sex."
This complex film draws on dark and deeply felt American insecurities about sex. Building its prejudices around a few core truths (that children don't have a context with which to understand pornography, that the subject matter of pornography is often violent, that pornography is a hugely profitable business), it advocates positioning the "God-given gift of sex" as an invisible, unreproducible sacrament. Though there are many reasons why this film condemns pornography, one of the most basic is that "through this material today's youth can be stimulated to sexual activity for which he has no legitimate outlet." Its message is not simply one of anti-obscenity and anti-pornography but a strident prohibition of youthful and "perverted" sexual expression.
Perversion for Profit cites homosexuality as one of the most dangerous aspects of sexually explicit publications. Sexually explicit media is targeted for its presentation of homoerotic images, and its attack on gay and lesbian-themed materials is obsessive. "Once a person is perverted," says Putnam, "it is practically impossible for that person to adjust to normal attitudes in regard to sex." As we see numerous visual excerpts from men's "muscle" magazines, the narration states that "psychologists believe that prolonged exposure of even the normal male adult to this type of publication, though he may not be aware of its true nature, will nevertheless pervert." And Putnam sums up: "These homosexuals have a slogan that betrays the evil of the breed. 'Today's conquest,' they say, 'is tomorrow's competition.'"
"For the sake of decency in this film, we have partially covered the pictures and disguised the identity of the models." Although this film boasts of its great pains to block out all the obscene portions of the examples it shows, the cumulative effect of its red censor bars and obsessional narration is to achieve new heights of prurience. Imagine, for a moment, some typical audiences: a middle-aged church group (I'm sure its makers considered the film too explicit to show to youngsters); a city council meeting in closed session; police officers; or perhaps suburban Rotarians and Jaycees. For most people seeing Perversion for Profit this was probably their first public encounter (and for some, their first personal one) with printed pornography, and I'd venture to say the film acquainted them about homosexuality to a degree of which they hadn't previously been aware. As Putnam says, "The psychiatric terms for these unnatural sex acts are unknown to most decent adults in our country." It's not possible, I think, to observe such a broad array of sexually oriented material from a distance without thinking about what these allusions are actually referencing. As Mr. and Mrs. America watched this movie, they must have shared a sweaty, tense, secretive, and fascinating experience.
The narration bores on. "These magazines not only display complete nudity, they do so in a perverted manner....Such as this appeal to the sodomist, such as these shots which are typical of the preoccupation with the female breast, to the point that it has become a fetish. And this one, with its overtones of bestiality...and with lesbian implications." It appears the pornographers have found a perfect audience for their publications in the makers of Perversion for Profit.
Interestingly, P for P prefigures today's hysteria about "cyberporn" and the availability of uncensored material on the Internet. Putnam invokes similar arguments: "Now, you might ask yourself, why this sudden concern? Pornography and sex deviation have always been with mankind. This is true. But now, consider another fact. Never in the history of the world have the merchants of obscenity, the teachers of unnatural sex acts, had available to them the modern facilities for disseminating this filth. High-speed presses, rapid transportation, mass distribution. All have combined to put the vilest obscenity within reach of every man, woman and child in the country."
The magazines representing this "vilest obscenity" seem to be artifacts of a considerably more innocent era. Witness their titles: Jem, Rapture, Scamp, Torch, Dame, Hi-Life, Gentleman, Jade, Nightcap, Escapade, Mate, Swank, Mr., Rogue, Sextet, Nugget, Monsieur, Scene, Swinger, Taboo, Caper, Play, Fury, Ace, Adam, La Femme, Hit Show, Striparama, Follies, Fling, Gent, Spree, Modern Man, Bachelor, Gala, Chic, Plush, Frolic (all general men's magazines); Sun, American Sunbather, Sundial, Sunshine & Health, American Nudist Leader, Eden, Nude Living (nudist magazines); and Physique, One, Man Alive, Physique Pictorial, Mattachine Review, Male Classics, Olympic Arts, MANual, Male Physique, Tomorrow's Man, The Male Figure, Adonis, Grecian Guild Pictorial, Physique Artistry, MAN-ifique!, Trim, The Young Physique (all gay male).
In a sequence that is difficult to ignore, Perversion for Profit attempts to link pornography and violence by invoking violent pornography. Putnam reads an excerpt from Sex Jungle, a pulp novel written from the viewpoint of a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent. In this passage, the boy muses over his experience with rape, drugs and assault. It's a difficult passage to listen to, but it's a critique of dehumanized violence rather than a critique of pornography. Putnam quotes "Dr. Sarokin, a renowned sociologist at Harvard," who describes how newsstand fiction and magazines "depict the world as a sort of human zoo, inhabited by raped, mutilated and murdered females, and by he-males, outmatching in bestiality cavemen, and outlusting the lustiest of animals. Male and female alike are hardened in cynical contempt of human life and values." The film touches on a critically important issue, but falls short of making any proposal other than simple censorship.
On an apocalyptic note, Perversion for Profit ends. "This same type of rot and decay caused sixteen of the nineteen major civilizations to vanish from the earth. Magnificent Egypt, classical Greece, imperial Rome, all crumbled away. Not because of the strength of the aggressor, but because of moral decay from within. But we are in a unique position to cure our own ills. Our Constitution was written by men who put their trust in God, and founded a government based in His laws. These laws are on our side. We have a constitutional guarantee of protection against obscenity. And in this day especially we must seek to deliver ourselves from this twisting, torturing evil. We must save our nation from decay, and deliver our children from the horrors of perversion. We must make our land, the land of the free, a safe home. Oh God, deliver us Americans from evil." Fadeout.
In essence, Perversion for Profit sexualizes anti-Communist conspiracy theories by linking them with the mere existence and ready availability of pornographic materials. Citing J. Edgar Hoover's ghostwritten anti-Communist "expose," the narration states that "this moral decay weakens our resistance to the onslaught of the communist 'Masters of Deceit.'" Perversion for Profit also holds pornography responsible for other national crises: illegitimate birth, syphilis and gonorrhea, and crime in general. "Sex-mad magazines are helping to create criminals faster than we can build jails to house them."
CDL made other films after Perversion for Profit: Printed Poison and Pages of Death were available from them well into the 1980s. Both dramatize violent crimes whose perpetrators were goaded to rape and kill by pornographic publications. Various supplements on this disc place CDL's films in context with its activities and outline the history of censorship of sexually explicit media.
Many contemporary viewers may laugh at Perversion for Profit. Others may find some or all of its analysis and assertions right on target. Without a doubt, it often resembles a Nineties anti-pornography tract. But it's something more important than a manifesto or an object of ridicule. Despite its bombast, it forces us to examine our own feelings about pornography and its relation to power, crime and victimization. As a society, we have so far failed to come to terms with this issue, even after the expenditure of millions of words.
But Perversion for Profit is disingenuous. It isn't simply an attack on pornography, but an attempt to lend legitimacy to the anti-Communist movement by invoking "decency," homophobia and the safety of children. It denies the creative and formative power of sexuality in our culture, because its cultural vision cannot encompass sexual desire outside of very limited channels. It promotes what is obviously a complex social agenda, but claims to be about one thing only: the abolition of pornography. No matter what truths they may contain, ultimately films like this stain the concepts of decency and morality.
PORNOGRAPHY Danger Lurks